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Forget about the edge of the desert; the drugs had already taken hold. Aerosmith managed to keep it together on Draw the Line long enough to put out an album that was good enough if you squinted. Infighting, missed gigs and long, overbudget recording sessions were the order of business. It’s just another chapter in the same old rock and roll story. It looked like Aerosmith would be one of those bands that just burned out before the end of the 1970’s.
With half the album finished, Joe Perry quit Aerosmith. Packing it in wasn’t an option financially so Jimmy Crespo, a session player, was hired on. A number of guitar players finished the album,
Right in the Nuts Night in the Ruts, a collection of songs that probably wouldn’t have been considered for previous albums like Toys in the Attic for reasons of quality.
Things got off to a strong start with “No Surprize”, a song telling the story of Aerosmith’s beginning, and featuring Joe Perry on guitar. This is a standard 1970’s Aero-rocker, with no surprises (pun intended). You wouldn’t know anything was wrong with Aerosmith by the sounds of it. The playing is faultless (particularly drummer Joey Kramer’s) and the song is well constructed.
“Chiquita” is second, and I can’t help it but I always think of bananas. There’s a groove and some catchy brass parts, but nothing that coalesces into an album-quality song. It doesn’t particularly matter though when you’re Aerosmith though! “Chiqita” is a lesser known highlight regardless of its faults.
Because of its placement on the later (and more well known) album Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits, I’m used to “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” being a closing song. I’ve always found it to be a dramatic and classic Shangri La’s cover, but placing it right dead center of side one doesn’t sound right to me. It’s also worth pointing out that this is the first of three covers on Night in the Ruts. Coming up with original material must have been a struggle since the album is 1/3 covers.
“Cheese Cake” piles on the slide guitar, one of Joe Perry’s brightest talents. Because of his eloquent slide work, “Cheese Cake” is one of the best tracks. I’m pretty sure the lyrics are not about cake. For extra coolness, check out the Aerosmith Pandora’s Box set. “Cheese Cake” is sequenced with “Let it Slide”, an instrumental demo highlighting Joe’s guitar work. Onto “Three Mile Smile”, Aerosmith managed to come up with a funky groove but not much of a song. Once again on the box set, it was sequenced with an instrumental demo (“I Love in Conecticut”) that highlights the playing. Too bad they weren’t focused enough to turn it into a killer song.
A blues cover, “Reefer Headed Woman” kills four minutes, but without focus. The thrill is gone. Tyler remembered his harmonica that day at least; he sounds completely out of it otherwise. If you want some of that old Aerosmith chug, then look no further than the vicious “Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)”. For the first time since “Cheese Cake”, it sounds like Aerosmith have ignited the way they used to. “Bone to Bone” hits all the bases, leaving one so frustrated that they couldn’t do it more often on this record.
That’s it for the Tyler/Perry originals. A Yardbirds cover “Think About It” isn’t particularly memorable and Tyler lacks energy. Steven wrote the closing song “Mia” for his daughter, and per the Aerosmith pattern, it’s a piano ballad to close the album. I want to like it more than I do, but like much of Night in the Ruts, it sounds half-finished and tired.
It’s frustrating since the Aerosmith discography up to this point has been largely consistent. Night in the Rights represents the start of the “dark times”, a period where Aerosmith had lost two key members and were in danger of losing their singer to his own demons.
AEROSMITH BOX OF FIRE review series: